¿Barça o Real?
Roxy Rezvany mulls over whether divisions are in fact liberating…
Distinctions are important in El Salvador, particularly in its capital San Salvador, as they form important divides. The most overt divide is perpetuated by the violent gang culture in San Salvador between two gangs Mara Salvatrucha (“MS”) and the 18th Street Gang (“18”). It would be easy to say that the effects of this divide are obvious in El Salvador, but this would not be true. You can see the bullet holes in the windows of the public buses, and security men with guns – not just handheld pistols, but pump shotguns strapped across the chests of cheese shop guards. Yes, cheese shop guards. But what you can’t see is any obvious acknowledgement of this from the people in El Salvador as they go about their daily business, and this was quite unsettling. Last year public buses were blown up with passengers on them as a result of gang warfare. What we saw in the people wasn’t a determination to be merry despite the city’s situation; it seemed as if a lot of people were resigned to the way things were.
That said, when you converse with the people of the city you can see their love for the country and their community. This was most obvious in the way their attitudes towards football could dissolve divides that seem very much present in our culture. When boarding buses, or walking into the cheese store, whether it was the abuelito or the second grade primary school teacher introducing herself to you in the staffroom, the first question to greet you would be: “¿Barça o Real?”
This question in San Salvador would determine your ultimate allegiances. People would wear the team shirt to work, paint the crests on their cars, and families would commonly paint the crests on their own front door.
Yet there was something liberating about this divide. They didn’t care that I was a girl, they didn’t check that I knew who the teams were or even that I’d watched a game of football before. Football was a connection which every single person shared. And there was something so powerful about that assumption that for me, just as it was for them, this question was tantamount to my existence, something I too dwelt on.
Image courtesy of http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/2354902-3×2-940×627.jpg